Published: 14:04, 09 December 2021
| Updated: 16:05, 09 December 2021
Kent Police has confirmed it will not be prosecuting a hospital trust over the death of a baby boy due to the 'unrealistic prospect of conviction'.
The force had been looking into the standard of maternity care at East Kent Hospitals, following the tragic death of Harry Richford after his traumatic birth at the QEQM hospital in Margate.
The youngster died aged seven days old, caused by multiple failings during his delivery in November 2017, with a coroner ruling his death was wholly avoidable.
In April, after a criminal case was brought by the Care Quality Commission – the first of its kind – EKH pleaded guilty to the charge that it caused Harry and his mother Sarah Richford, from Birchington, harm by failing to provide safe care and treatment. The trust was fined £733,000.
Since last year, police had also been looking into incidents at the trust, but the force has confirmed it will not be pushing forward with a prosecution.
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Fotheringham, head of major crime at Kent Police, said: "Since August 2020 Kent Police has been carrying out an assessment of information received in relation to the standard of maternity care provided at a hospital in east Kent.
"After careful consideration and following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we took the decision that a criminal investigation would not be undertaken at this time as there is no realistic prospect of conviction against any individual or organisation based on the evidence currently available.
"Any further information received at any time in the future will be assessed as appropriate."
In a statement, Harry’s family said: “We are disappointed that Kent Police, in collaboration with the CPS special crime unit in London, have not been able to take forward a charge of corporate manslaughter for Harry at this time.
"They have assured us that they will keep an open mind on this matter and any other appropriate charges as and when new evidence is brought before them.
"We believe that the Kirkup inquiry and investigation may allow them to revisit a raft of charges on behalf of harmed babies in east Kent in due course.
"Only when senior leaders are properly held to account, will there be lasting change."
Last year, a coroner ruled that Harry was failed by the hospital following a three-week inquest.
The inquest heard evidence detailing a series of worrying incidents in the lead-up to his birth and distressing details of the panic-stricken medical team who delivered him.
Harry's death has led to numerous other cases of maternity incidents emerging.
A 2016 report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was also made public highlighting significant problems across the QEQM and the William Harvey in Ashford.
Issues highlighted were consultants not carrying out ward rounds, attending out-of-hours calls when requested or completing mandatory training.
An independent inquiry by Dr Bill Kirkup is currently underway looking into the standard of care provided by the maternity and neonatal service at EKH since 2009, the year it became a foundation trust.
Families who believe they received poor clinical care from the trust were encouraged to come forward and the number is believed to be at almost 200.